When I first considered the prospect of impending unemployment, my outlook was undeniably gloomy. I wouldn’t be able to afford Wimbledon rent, that’s for sure. Would I have to take a job I dislike even more than accountancy, with potentially worse hours and unquestionably worse pay?
My French housemate was scathing of my pessimism. “You English people are so pessimistic! Why do you expect to be unemployed and homeless? What about applying for another job and getting it?”
It’s true, I was pessimistic before I’d even scouted out the jobs market. Listening to the ‘record unemployment figures’ on the news and my Mum telling me how hard I’d find it to live on the dole, I’d not considered the optimistic side of things. There are still jobs out there, of course, and someone, somewhere, must be filling each advertised position.
I may not have much work experience, but nor will many new graduates, with whom I’ll be competing this summer. On the other hand, I do have a good degree from a well-respected university, and am an almost-part-qualified chartered accountant. That’s got to count for something, right?
When I first considered applying for jobs, though, I didn’t much consider rejection. After all, when applying for graduate schemes at university I was accepted onto the first one I applied for, and signed the contract in a heartbeat. The same thing happened when I applied for my first Saturday job as a teenager, and to my top six university choices.
Part of the reason I never got rejected was because I never risked going for things I thought I might not win. I avoided the Oxbridge process, so as to not risk being the one in my family not to get a place. I even avoided applying to the university newspaper, even though I love writing, and had been the features editor of my school magazine. The idea of being told I wasn’t good enough was enough to stop me even trying.
I’d not experienced not getting what I wanted. For that reason, however, I thought I’d deal with job applications very well. I’d be organised and systematic, deciding which role I’d like, then pursuing it until I got it. Waking up early, I’d sort through potential roles, then spend the day tailoring my applications, cover letters and CVs.
As soon as I began the process, though, I very quickly saw how easy it is to become despondent. Most job descriptions come with the disheartening disclaimer ‘as we do not have the resources to individually contact each applicant, if we do not contact you by this time, please assume that you have been unsuccessful on this occasion’. How many times do you have to go through the process of applying, never hearing back, applying somewhere else? You hear of people completing hundreds of applications, with no response.
Even the job descriptions are unattainable; for the fairly modest (in London) salary of £22,000, employers are asking for years of experience, and a whole array of ‘essential qualities’ for the relatively lowly position of assistant. As a graduate with three years’ experience in finance, on a decent wage, I apparently don’t have the ‘essential’ criteria to perform a fairly basic-sounding role.
It looks as though competing against hundreds of others for a poorly-paid position, advertised on a job site, may not be my best option. I’m going to have to widen my net to make sure I land a job before it’s time to leave my current one. Here goes…